Many North Carolina counties require MPs to take people to mental health facilities ::


– After her 14-year-old daughter tried to overdose on pills, Chrysti Peek called for help. But when that help arrived, the teenager was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.

Now Durham’s mother is pushing for change, highlighting state law and county policy that has largely gone under the radar.

Peek said she wanted nothing more than to protect her daughter, but she worries that she has failed.

“I’m afraid if she finds herself in this position again, she won’t want to tell us,” she said, biting back tears.

Her daughter came to see her in the middle of the night a few days after Christmas to tell her that she had tried to hurt herself and needed help.

“She understood what should come next. I don’t think any of us understood what was to come,” Peek said.

Her parents rushed her to the emergency room at Duke University Hospital, where she was promptly medically cleared. The family wanted her to seek treatment at a mental health facility, but they were unaware that this would be considered an “involuntary engagement,” demanding that she be taken for treatment handcuffed in the back of the car. ‘an assistant.

There was a bed available, but since no assistant was immediately available, Peek said her daughter waited two days in hospital, delaying needed care.

“Everything about this experience sounds like punishment,” she said.

State law requires counties to determine how they transport people for involuntary psychiatric engagements. In September 2019, County Durham Commissioners approved a policy to enforce the law.

There are very few who do not use law enforcement, ”said Mark. Botts, an expert in mental health law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of government.

Acknowledging that he does not know the details of the Peek family case, he said it was surprising that the teenager was seen as an involuntary engagement rather than a voluntary admission and that the parents were not allowed to take their daughter to a mental health facility themselves.

“Looks like they could have. You could say they should have,” he said.

County policy states that, even in the event of involuntary engagements, “a clerk, magistrate or district court judge” may authorize the family to provide transportation.

The North Carolina Sheriffs Association recently recommended that involuntary hiring orders be executed by mental health professionals rather than assistants.

“With everything going on across the country, we know law enforcement isn’t always the best option or shouldn’t be the first choice,” County Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said. . “There are going to be times when we have to do them for safety reasons, but yes, I would appreciate an alternative.”

Peek said that’s what she wants too, and she is determined to fight for this change.

But Brenda Howerton, chair of the County Durham Commissioners Council, said there are no plans to change the policy on involuntary commitments.

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